In ¡§Raise the Red Lantern¡¨, the red lantern, an invented icon here (and one accused of being a fake cultural signifier used merely for sensational purposes), is the film¡¦s central symbol and most important metaphor. The colour red is a symbol of sexuality and eroticism, but no longer of passion. More importantly, it turns out to be associated with patriarchal and political power. To get the lantern lit refers to the victory of one woman over all the others, but at the same time it still represents failure for all the women because the woman who gains the lit lantern must be totally exposed, under the red light, before the gaze and under the control of the man. The color red here remains a symbol of blood and death, as in the death scenes of both the servant Yan¡¦er and the third wife, who dared to disobey the rules.
The sound of the foot massages in Raise the Red Lantern echoes very well the rhythm of tension, obsession, and desire in the daily life of Chen¡¦s household. It seems to be the only promising and stimulating sound for the wives in that deadly quiet mansion. Moreover, this sound is often parallel to, or mixed with that of the footsteps of the master when he approaches the selected wife¡¦s room. This sound, then, creates a temporary illusion for the woman, who thinks she is going to win the man. This sound of the foot massage I is like a kind of drug, or opium, that can make a woman numb, intoxicated, and ecstatic, and, particularly, more likely to surrender herself to the man. On the other hand, such a fast paced sound is like that of a drum in the battlefield and encourages the women to plot and fight against each other.